Originally posted as “Getting Started On Brand Strategy” on 7 Oct 2020.
Hey folks, welcome back to the second part of my Branding Masterclass series! Last month, we discussed the key differences between “brand”, “branding”, and “brand identity”. These three elements make up one part of brand strategy, but before we go any further we need to ensure that our strategy is built on solid fundamentals. This month’s Branding Masterclass discusses the necessary questions aspiring business owners need to answer before they even consider brand strategy.
I’m sure at some point or rather in time, like me, you’ve sat up from the excitement of a brilliant business idea. Mind racing a mile a minute, you wonder what to name your brand and what its logo could potentially look like. With any luck, you might have some insight into branding already, or perhaps fate might have pointed you in the direction of some online resources. Armed with this knowledge and determined not to fall into the same pitfalls as industry novices, you might even go to work fleshing out the key elements of your brand identity.
If this was a movie, this would be the part where we hear a record scratch while a velvet-voiced narrator goes “Don’t get ahead of yourself.” These ideas, great as they are, only make up a small portion of brand strategy. Before even plotting your brand strategy, first consider if you’ve answered the following questions:
#1 Do you know your product or service?
Knowing your product goes beyond imagining what your product will look like – it requires you to comprehensively understand its pros and cons, its unique selling points (USPs), and even how it will be sourced and produced. If you intend on offering a service, that will mean not only knowing what service to provide but also how you might go about distinguishing yourself from the competition while delivering that service efficiently.
In certain cases, a business’s product or service might overlap or even complement one another. Take the car manufacturer Tesla, for example. Their main products are Electric Vehicles but they also offer a monthly subscription service that upgrades their vehicles with self-driving capabilities – product meets service.
For aspiring business owners, it is imperative that you understand what sets a product and a service apart. When determining your product or service, start with the basics of answering “what-why-how-and-who” to help bring clarity to the core of your business before moving on to the next step.
#2 Do you understand your cost and pricing?
An odd question but you’ll be surprised how frequently this is overlooked! It is understandable to some degree, given that the nitty gritty details of cost and pricing can incite nausea in even the most numerically astute among us. It should go without saying that for a business to operate effectively, the price of goods and services must be higher than the cost. That begs the question, “how much higher?”
A good starting point would be to calculate the total cost of making your product or delivering your service, and adding a reasonable percentage on top of it. This percentage can range drastically across similar products, from a single percentage point to more than a twofold increase. This pricing system is also in part informed by who your target market and audience is, as we’ll discuss next.
#3 Do you know your target market and target audience?
In my previous iteration of this article, I wrote an unattributed quote that went like this:
If you’re selling to everyone, you’re selling to no one
Fast forward four years and guess what, that quote is still relevant! To revisit the issue and provide some Masterclass-worthy advice, I want to restate the key distinction between “target market” and “target audience”:
By knowing who your target audience is, as a business owner, you’ll be able to carefully tailor your product and services in a way that appeals to them. Narrowing your target market down to a set of quantifiable behaviours and interests also naturally allows you to develop your marketing materials to resonate with them. If you know who your business is speaking to, you can now affect a positive response by presenting the right message through the right medium.
#4 Consider your brand personality
What the younger generation might refer to as a “vibe check”, a brand personality is not unlike the idea of brand identities. In essence, your brand personality is a way to connect with your target audience. If it’s on the same wavelength as your target audience, congrats – you passed the vibe check and you’re ahead in consumer preference compared to your competitors. While this sounds terribly simplified, the way to achieving this lies in the 12 brand archetypes.
Navigating your brand personality all boils down to aligning it towards specific brand archetypes. These archetypes stem from universal patterns of behaviour that are manifested in your target audience and present traits that they are likely to self-identify with. Embrace that, and construct your messages accordingly.
#5 Think about your vision and mission
The final question, and perhaps the most philosophical. In case you’ve seen these terms before but weren’t particularly sure what they meant, here’s a line from my previous article:
A vision statement focuses on tomorrow and what an organization wants to ultimately become. A mission statement focuses on today and what an organization does to achieve it. Both are vital in directing goals.
Britt Skrabanek, ClearVoice
In other words, a vision statement informs your business’s direction and purpose, while a mission statement answers the what, who, and how questions of what your business intends to accomplish. The two questions of “why do I exist?” and “what do I do?” has been repeated by mankind since time immemorial, and anyone that can answer these questions on behalf of their business is definitely on the right track.
To close out part two of my Branding Masterclass, I’d like to challenge aspiring business owners to answer the questions above. As you can tell, this is a topic I’m fiercely passionate about and I firmly believe that branding and brand strategy can only support the growth of well-founded businesses. Brand management matters for nought if a business is a house of cards waiting to fall.
Remember to stay tuned to this space for monthly updates from me, and until then, don’t be a stranger!
Nadine is the Principal Brand Consultant and CEO of Superminted. She is a nonconforming, divergent thinker with a conviction that effective branding is the cornerstone to a successful business.